This project grew from Postcards For America, completed last summer during a cross-country road trip across the U.S.A. from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. and back again. To read more info and view all the documentation from this project, please visit Postcards For America at Throughout my month-long trip through national parks, ghost towns, metropolises, and tiny villages, I found myself understanding America through other people’s images and narratives every time I left a postcard at a bar, monument, museum, car windshield, rest stop, or stranger's home. When I returned to L.A., I saw these Postcards For America as a reflection of how a dispersed selection of individuals imagines America, travel, and the sites and experiences worth the journey. I also began to think about how this project might work in other scenarios.

If the cross-country road trip is the ultimate icon of American travel, its European equivalent might be The Grand Tour, an 18th-century rite-of-passage for mostly young, wealthy, primarily English men who would travel for months, sometimes years, on prescribed itineraries from London to Rome and far-flung places in-between. During these trips, they were expected to absorb and record their presence at significant sites in ways that would allow them to participate in the solidifying aristocratic class with a kind of cultural authenticity that only comes from actually “being there.” They also used the tour as an opportunity to “sow their wild oats” and affirm notions of cultural supremacy in libidinal, exotic, foreign places. Today, rites-of-passage, from “gap year” adventures, to after-graduation backpacking trips, to importance of “study abroad,” all share a legacy stemming from the ideas and ideals tied up in The Grand Tour.

This Grand Tour history has also cemented many hallmarks of tourism that stick with us today. The souvenir has moved from the stolen (or fake) ancient ruin to the pocketable local craft and miniaturized monument. The on-site portrait was once an expensive, life-size, commissioned painting, and now it's the selfie and the Leaning Tower of Pisa prop shot. The Guidebook as we know it was born from Grand Tour itineraries and its legacy lingers in multiple iPhone apps. And the idealized scene rendered for posterity has moved from large Piranesi prints to glossy postcards of cats lounging on Roman ruins.

My hope is that your participation in this project will contribute to a sprawling, engaging, and fun investigation into this The Grand Tour lineage, amongst a host of other, perhaps unrelated issues and ideas. This will all happen through the simple medium of the postcard, an inexpensive, ubiquitous, and accessible icon of tourism and travel.

Tucker Neel 2016